As civilisation advances at a rapid pace, the speed of digital computers appears to be at the forefront of human innovation. Indeed, computers even now can perform many of the talks now that had to be done manually only 10 or 15 years ago. But how would you feel about trusting a computer with your car? Well you may find out sooner than you think! Scientists from Oxford University have developed a car that can drive itself without the need of a human. However, what makes it special is that it actually sees the world around it, by combining a number of technologies including cameras, radar and lasers.
Of course we see some of these innovations in some of our top of the range road cars, and the Google car is a prime example of that. However, this car is different; it uses a 3D map of its surroundings, which allows it to react in real time to any hazards, giving it many advantages over GPS.
GPS is usually used to locate the car within a few meters, therefore it is not accurate enough to use as a basis for the self-drive car, however, its integration of laser, cameras and radar means the 3D map is so accurate it can match that of a human driver.
Leader of the project is Professor Paul Newman, who hopes to create safer and cleaner roads by making robotic automated cars. He claims that even the accessibility of cars would be increased. But, surely many people love driving, and I personally can see that demand for such a car might hard to create amongst certain demographics, but long journeys would perhaps be made far more comfortable.
To achieve Professor Newman’s vision the project has received a large amount of funding, totalling £1.4 million, given by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research council.
So what does this mean for the future of motoring? Will any of the current generation outlive the human car driver? Will the driving test become a thing of the past in the near future? For me, I expect not. I can see this sort of technology benefitting the older generation, particularly on long car journeys, but for me, many people enjoy the feeling of complete control over a car, rightly or wrongly pushing it to its limits. Ultimately the people are likely to begrudge handing over yet another human task over to the computer – particularly one so enjoyed by many.